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Youth boxing, and to a lesser extent boxing in general, became the subject of renewed controversy in late 1998 after a Queensland boxing competition involving young girls. The NSW Minister for Sport failed in her attempted to convince the Council of Sport Ministers for an Australia-wide ban on boxing for children under 14 years. Health and safety groups, including the Federal Health Minister, have long advocated a ban on boxing. The failure of sports ministers to act drew strong condemnation from groups such as the Australian Medical Association (web site domino.ama.com.au, 20 November 1998). NSW subsequently acted to ban all boxing for children under 14 years of age. Media reports indicate a ban is likely in Queensland.
Professor John Pearn, a Brisbane paediatrician, called for an absolute ban on underage boxing in an August 1998 article in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. In the press coverage of the issue he suggested that placing the head entirely out of bounds would make the sport more challenging but safer for participants. Noting past controversy about other rule changes he said that in 1938 when the rules were changed everyone said it was the end of boxing—who will go if you can't watch someone being hit in the testicles—but boxing survived (The Weekend Australian, 28–29 Nov 1998, p41). Simon Chapman, a public health advocate from Sydney University, has a slightly more tongue in cheek response, suggesting we make the head out of bounds but allow blows below the belt on the grounds it will increase the public spectacle and reduce the reproductive ability of boxers.
Recommendations of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Report on Boxing Injuries that professional boxing be prohibited and that amateur boxing be permitted only under strict conditions are available on the web (www.health.gov.au/nhmrc). The American Academy of Pediatrics has its 1997 policy on participation of children and young people in boxing (RE9703) available ( www.aap.org/policy).
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